I received a reply from Barry O’Farrell, Leader of the Opposition in NSW, regarding my DER enquiry.
Have a read:
I guess that’s a yes? What do you think?
It’s been almost a week since I Tweeted and then emailed the Leader of the NSW Opposition and his Shadow Education Minister about the future of DER in their hands, should they win the upcoming NSW election.
Today – a response!
Mr Adrian Piccoli MP, The Shadow Minister for Education, Skills and Youth Affairs, emailed me back.
I’ll pass no judgement here – but what do you think?
I am grateful for the reply, but with respect to Mr Piccoli he’s not the boss.
I’m now very interested in what Mr O’Farrell has to say.
I’ve decided to continue my tradition (well…I’ve done it twice) of asking the political leaders in upcoming elections (this time the NSW State election) what their position is on maintaining the Digital Education Revolution (DER) program.
The word is that the Labor Party will maintain the program. The word “savings” was heard during Barry O’Farrell’s speech last week. I was interested to know what that meant with respect to DER in NSW.
So here’s what I wrote to Mr Barry O’Farrell MP (Opposition Leader) and Mr Adrian Piccoli MP (Shadow Minister for Education, Skills and Youth Affairs)
Dear Mr O’Farrell and Mr Piccoli,
I am a Head Teacher PDHPE in a NSW Department of Education (DET) school. I have devoted a large amount of my recent professional learning time reflecting on and further developing my teaching based on the stellar work of the Digital Education Revolution (DER) team. This has reinvigorated many aspects of what I do daily in school. Speak to just about any teacher in NSW secondary schools and I’m sure you’ll find that the evidence regarding the changes it has brought about to the way teachers and students are moving into the 21st Century is quite compelling.
I’ve seen in my classes the experiences, resources and opportunities that the Digital Education Revolution has provided my students. Students that were not engaged by poorly photocopied, out of date worksheets now have the ability to access a wealth of appealing, reliable information that is quite often updated daily. The student’s skills in collaboration, communication, social responsibility and the creation of quality indicators of their learning and understanding have been amplified by this game changing initiative. The future that DER offers holds awesome potential, including the integration of ubiquitous technology in classroom teaching and learning. And this isn’t just in my school, but right across the State. Search #dernsw on Twitter to see some of the great work being done.
I must admit that I was worried when I heard you say recently that a lot of what you would do if you achieved government would be paid for via “savings”. I would imagine the DER program would be expensive, and it would be an attractive area to make savings in.
I was browsing your Party web site today and my concerns that DER may become part of the savings measures should you win power were not alleviated. There were only 3 items in your “Education” policy section, none of which dealt with DER.
So, what I want to know is – should you win the upcoming election, what level of commitment will you show to sparing the DER program from the axe? Additionally, will you endeavour to let it grow and flourish in the future?
You should know that this letter won’t just be between you and me. Sorry. A lot of DET people will know via Twitter and my blog that I’ve asked these questions of you. I’m sure they share my concerns and would like to know the answers too. Understanding this, if, in this socially connected world, you want to follow our conversation about this issue on Twitter, search the tag #libsder for what people are saying.
Brendan Jones – @jonesytheteachr on Twitter
HT PDHPE – Erina High School
I’ve been playing around with a cool little app on the DER laptops that are in schools in NSW.
Tracker is a free video analysis and modelling tool, designed originally for physics classes, but perfect for analysing movement in PE classes too.
While not being an uber sport scientist geek, I found the app to be easy to use and engaging for the kids.
I shot some video of my students practising their golf chip shots.
Importing the video is simple. The kids were intrigued to see their performances, and some great discussion about what a good shot looked like ensued.
For the more technically minded, there are a variety of analysis tools that can be introduced over the video.
I then used a video of a pro playing pretty much the same shot at the students for comparison. This produced a lot more talk!
For those in NSW, the biggest feature that makes this eminently workable is that Tracker comes as a .jar file. This still doesn’t mean much to me at all, except that it doesn’t require installation to work. Which makes it a perfect tool in the DER laptops.
So now I have two options for analysing video. Tracker (thanks @benpaddlejones for the heads up), and The Zone, as suggested and blogged about by @mrrobbo. Both great tools for PE GEEKS and their classes.
Just a quick one.
Part of our Yr10 School to Work assessment task portfolio is to be “mock” interviewed.
In order to get ready for this (for some) traumatic experience, I decided to exploit a piece of software on the DER laptops.
Called Debut Video Capture, it allows you to easily record video using the webcam on the laptop. It comes preloaded on the laptop, but is also available free on the internet for webcam enabled PCs
I created an activity where the students responded to typical interview questions on a live PDF. They then used these answers as the basis of a “rehearsal” interview with a friend. But instead of just talking to their friend, they recorded themselves, and then showed me the product. I can then offer instant feedback on their interview technique, replay and discuss. Normally, I would only get to watch then once if I tried this “live” with every student in the class.
Worst case scenario, if they don’t finish in class, they can do it at home and email me the video, or put it in our class folder with Photobucket.
This tool could be used in any faculty, for almost any task or activity where kids talk. Practice speeches and presentations ….you name it.
I’ve reproduced here an email I sent to the current Federal Minister for Education (Julia Gillard), and her potential successor (Christopher Pyne). I would encourage everyone to do the same as the Federal election grows nearer.
Dear Minister and Shadow Minister,
I am the Head Teacher Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) at Erina High School in NSW. We were recently lauded by the Minister in a speech to the Press Club about the work that we are doing with laptops as part of the “Education Revolution” funding made available by the Federal government. The issue of education funding after the upcoming Federal election is the reason for this, my first foray into political lobbying.
I don’t think I can quite describe adequately the massively positive impact that the laptops have had in my school in particular. Certainly, there have been implementation issues to overcome, but we do this willingly because we see the “big picture benefits” that this particular initiative has provided us, and will continue to offer, should the funding remain available. When I say we, I mean everyone involved in this initiative: the staff, students and invaluable technical support from the NSW Department of Education and Training.
I’ve seen first hand “hard to engage” students buy into learning activities for seemingly the first time because a combination of the laptop technology, the teacher and the resources used in the lesson inspired them to participate. I’ve also witnessed hardened and sceptical teaching staff, including those who initially had limited technical skills or interest in technology, become invigorated and find new challenges and rewards in their work after training with the laptops. They now leap into their own learning with vigour and take on new things together with their peers and their students.
The pedagogical variety and depth has changed almost overnight, with staff wanting to apply technological solutions to areas that they have found to be traditionally hard to teach.
But most dramatically, the quality of what we do in class has seen the greatest changes. We can now instantly place what we do in the real world and have students create, problem solve, collaborate and communicate in a way that appeals to their unique generational instincts.
That’s not to say that traditional teaching goes out the window – my faculty area relies on practising very interpersonal, human skills to be successful. However the “revolution” that is the availability of laptops in my room, in the hands of my students has changed the way I think about teaching, for now and probably for the rest of my career. This new synergy between old and new educational techniques is, I think, moving my teaching practice along with contemporary society.
Which brings me to my point. I would like a straight answer from both the current Federal Education Minister, and her potential successor. As the funding for the Digital Education Revolution (DER) laptops for students in NSW comes from the Federal government, will the next Federal Education Minister guarantee that the funding will continue to be available?
I’m sure I speak for my colleagues in NSW when I say I certainly hope so.
Yours sincerely, Brendan Jones
PS – if you would like to see first hand the professional dialogue that the DER program has generated in NSW first hand, search #DERNSW on Twitter.
I’ve always prided myself on being prepared for lessons. This week though I found myself in a situation from which I was able to extricate myself relatively painlessly, with the help of an interactive white board (IWB), my DER laptop and some fast thinking.
For some reason I thought I had Year 9 Outdoor Recreation. I had a wizz bang lesson on golf ready to go as the kids walked in the room, but when one of them said “Golf…we’re doing that in Outdoor Recreation too..” I kinda knew something was off.
Quickly checking my timetable, I’d mistakenly prepared for Wednesday A, not Wednesday B (damn you, 2 week cycles!). No time to think about that now…how do I seamlessly transform from “Golf” to “Nutritional Analysis of Food Labels”.
First off, lets check the homework I set last week (Calculate your BMI, and critique the whole use of the BMI calculation and assessment process as a measure of obesity, as well as calculating Max Heart Rate (MHR) and Target Heart Rate zones for future PE lessons). While the kids that hadn’t finished this work were scrambling to get it done, I was scrambling to set up some work of my own.
In preparing a lesson on the energy balance and nutritional analysis earlier that week, I’d found this resource from the Heart Foundation. Once the kids had finished their homework and we had discussed and debriefed the issues (and some had some very interesting things to say about the validity of the BMI as a measurement tool!) I put the PDF up on the IWB and had the class focus on the energy balance information. They made some notes in their exercise books, which gave me time to set up the next bit.
Analysing food labels is a cool interactive way for kids to “get” what kilojoules and the energy balance is all about. Half the time kids don’t relate to the concept of energy intake and then what it takes to expend that energy. Thus, a little bit of looking at food labels often crystallises their thoughts on food intake and the amount of activity they need to do to stay healthy.
“Who’s got a food packet in their bags?” I ask the class while they are note taking. “Something with nutritional information” I add when half a dozen sandwiches are offered. Eventually one kid gives me a 20g pack of rice crackers (those tasteless things that look like tiny shiny pillows), with the nutritional information table on the back.
I read the label out to the class, focussing on the kilojoule count (around 300kJ). I related this to the energy balance information that they had just noted (“this is energy in”), and then posed the question “How long would it take to burn this off?”. Snorts of derision were heard with comments like “about 2 minutes sir”.
“OK” I said, “Let’s see”
I then pulled this website up on the IWB that calculates energy expenditure per hour for a variety of physical activities. I said “Lets see how much work you have to do to burn these suckers off”. I selected “Computer Games” as the activity, put in my weight as the example, and used the duration of one hour. The calculator announced that I would burn 13kJ/hour.
Simple maths (with a kids calculator!) told us that to burn off the 300kJ in the rice crackers playing computer games (300kJ divided by the 13kJ per hour ) would take about 23 hours. The looks on the kid’s faces were priceless!
Homework: Collect labels from food items that would make up a meal for you (McDonalds meals, for instance). Add up the kilojoules, visit the site, work out how long you’d have to do a particular activity to burn it off and then write an account of your investigation.
Bell rings, kids leave saying “What are you going to look at?”, “this will be cool” … thank you and good night!
Now, while I’m the first to admit that it might not tick all the boxes when it comes to deep knowledge and understanding, I was glad I had the technology around me to do something like this. In my old days pre tech, I could have had a perilous hour to negotiate, with not as much happening. Oh…and I’ll make sure I read my timetable a bit more closely from now on.
This week I’ve played with a few things that might come in handy as far as student engagement goes in the next few months.
As the roll out date for our DER laptops draws nearer (11 days and counting), I tried some things that I can lead my faculty through as simple but quality engagement resources.
Glogster is something I’d heard about in many professional learning (PL) sessions, but never really explored. Setting up an education account with enough room (200 friends) for present and future students, I launched into my first Glog. Using this as a bench mark, I started my Year 10 Outdoor Recreation class on a PIP (Personal Interest Project), using Glogster as the medium for producing their work. They genuinely seemed interested and engaged in the set task. We’ll see how it goes in the future weeks!
Thanks to MrRobbo, I’ve started playing with Run Keeper, an iPhone app that records an exercise session, then uploads it to you online account. Whilst the opportunity for kids to contribute will initially be low (not many, if any, have iPhones), I can definitely see the use for the final product that I produce to be used as a stimulus for analysis. Who knows, kids might get iPhones for Christmas and then the whole landscape will change.
On a more egocentric note, apparently my work with our Moodle team at school has resulted in me being given the opportunity to share my experience at a Regional level in the next few weeks. I’m a bit excited about that – because it is a chance for me to be granted the respect I’ve so waited so long for (LOL). No – I am genuinely excited because I can’t really remember the last time I’ve been asked to contribute my knowledge on a work related issue that will help others with something that I have a genuine passion for. I’m pretty jazzed about that!
Video of the week – one of my favourite songs at the moment.